Substance use during pregnancy and motherhood is both a public health and criminal justice issue. While toxicology screens have become a part of a routine newborn physical assessment, a new study has revealed that specific racial disparities exist regarding who gets tested.

But, first things first: why are newborns drug tested?

Short- and long-term adverse effects encountered by newborns exposed to different substances can result in neonatal defects, including acute toxicity or sustained signs with lasting drug effects, to name a few.

According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), alcohol, for example, could cause miscarriage, stillbirth and preterm labor, as well as a myriad of lifelong congenital and developmental disabilities. Other commonly used substances in pregnancy that pose health risks to unborn babies include nicotine, cocaine and cannabis.

To that end, healthcare professionals and social workers report all cases of newborns testing positive for a particular drug to Child Protective Services. However, according to the investigation by residents, faculty, …

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